De Rosa jumps into state finals

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Southridge junior Alessandro De Rosa practices the high jump Tuesday at Raider Field in preparation for Friday's state finals at Ben Davis.


HUNTINGBURG — Southridge junior exchange student Alessandro De Rosa will soon make his trip back to Rome — but not before he makes a trip on Friday to Ben Davis.

De Rosa will represent the Raiders in the high jump in this year’s state finals after jumping a personal best distance of 6-03.00 in May 27 regional at Evansville Central — not bad for somebody who had never high jumped before coming to Indiana as an exchange student.

“I just always wanted to see what was life like in America, I don’t know — the American Dream and everything — I just wanted to experience that,” De Rosa said.

He has a love for basketball, and joined the Southridge squad earlier this year, with his first day of school coming on Jan. 4. De Rosa called it “a pretty fun experience” being part of the team — the first Raiders team to make it to semi-state since 1986.

It was during basketball season that former Raiders boys basketball coach Ted O’Brien, now Southridge’s track coach, reached out to De Rosa.

“That’s when we really kind of saw his athleticism, saw some videos of him dunking and came to games and saw him in warmups,” O’Brien said. “And Coach (Cody) Thompson was a part of that basketball program as a coach as well, and kind of got in my ear about it.

"I approached Alessandro at lunch one day, and told him I would love to have him come out for the track team as a high jumper or a long jumper, that he could have some great potential because of really the quality of coaching that we have on our staff.”

De Rosa wouldn’t have believed it if somebody told him when he started high jumping that he would make it to state, and even going into the regional, he didn’t think he was going to make it. But Thompson has coached him in the high jump, and he’s made his strides during these two months.

“I think the biggest thing is his flexibility,” Thompson said. “That was one thing he struggled with early. He tended to kind of fold like a chair over the bar instead of bend and be a little elegant and graceful over it, but he pretty quickly started piecing that together.”

Thompson noted, though, that as much progress as De Rosa has made, the biggest thing a high jumper can have going for them is the ability to jump. He pointed out that technique can be worked on, but being able to jump is something one can’t teach.

“He’s an extremely coachable kid,” Thompson said. “We’ll show and walk through different things, and he’ll go out and replicate it almost immediately. So, it’s been a joy to be around him, to coach him.”

De Rosa is just the latest of Raiders who have excelled in this event. Garrett Voegerl, Jayden Montgomery, Noah Goeppner and Thompson himself before jumping to success at Butler University all saw success as high jumpers for Southridge.

O’Brien told the Herald on Tuesday, though, that it’s all Southridge’s process of training.

“We actually, believe it or not, do not jump that much,” he said. “That might shock some groups, but we really only jump from a practice standpoint once a week, and our whole preseason we don’t jump at all. It’s all about strength training, it’s all about quick power movement in the weight rooms.

“We have something special at Southridge that all of the sports have bought into, and I think that’s why you see success across the board with our athletic programs, and that’s how we’ve approached track,” O’Brien continued.

De Rosa is Southridge's lone state boys participant, though the Raiders will also have sophomore Bailey Keusch represent the girls in the 200m dash on Saturday. He’s looking to study engineering, though he isn’t sure if his studies beyond high school will be in Italy or in the United States — but he does hope to come back to America.

He likes how school works and how people are as involved as they are in sports, and he’s seen a lot in his five months here.

“I was supposed to be coming in August last year, but since COVID and everything, they delayed it to January,” he said.

His family told him to have fun and experience it all, and he hopes his family and friends back in Rome will be happy upon learning of him being a state high jump qualifier. De Rosa is grateful to have made some friends on the track team, too, such as seniors Ricky Pflanz, Dylan Bland and Laci Schwenk. It’s the friends that he’s made that’s helped him get used to this.

De Rosa has learned a lot during his time in the United States. He’s learned to be open to everything and not care what anybody else thinks. De Rosa also has taken an approach that paraphrases a famous advertising slogan: Just Jump it.

Meanwhile, others have learned from De Rosa during his time here.

“Sometimes, we get really, really competitive in the American culture, especially in high school sports and Dubois County,” O’Brien said. “It is a big part of who we are, but keeping it in perspective of having a great attitude, having a smile on your face every day — sometimes, we lose a little bit of insight on that.

“We want to be highly competitive when we step between those lines, but you got to have fun with it, too," he continued. "And I think Alessandro reminded us coaches and reminded our team this year that, ‘Hey, when it’s time to compete, we’re going to compete, but let’s have a smile on our face and have a great attitude every day as well.'”

Thompson believes the key to De Rosa performing well at state is staying loose and enjoying it. He noted there aren’t any expectations, and he wants him to have fun with it.

O’Brien echoed a similar message, though he isn’t sure of how high De Rosa will place at state.

“The high jump is so crazy,” O’Brien said. “I’ve been up there, and I’ve seen guys that are seeded inside the top 10 miss an early height, and it’s just all about how it’s going to go. I think to go up there and podium, he’s going to have to jump a height he’s never jumped before.”

Meanwhile, he has his own goals for state.

“Just try and do my best and get a new PR — that’s all I want to do,” De Rosa said.

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